Uncategorized

Living Out Our Confession

For the Christian, living in a fallen world sometimes means our conduct contradicts our confession. What does living out our confession look like? Does our discipleship match up to Jesus’ criteria of obedience and personal relationship? To sum up Matthew 7:21-23, repentance and faith can be distinguished but cannot be separated. Authentic repentance is a repentance that trusts in Christ. Saving faith is a repentant faith (turning from sin to Christ). Following our repentance and profession of faith, our sin should cause us to grieve, asking for forgiveness from God and others, as we strive to follow our Savior daily.

Matthew 4:17; James 5:16; Mark 7:15

Christians fundamentally understand human problems. Scripture repeatedly provides examples of God’s people whose conduct was inconsistent with what they believed. Described in 1 Samuel as a man after God’s heart, David’s actions are no different. Peter was confronted for his contradictory behaviors. Although he knew truth, his conduct was inconsistent. We can be assured our position in Christ has been secured (justification) but we are continually walking out our salvation.

1 Samuel 13:14; Galatians 2:12-21; Philippians 2:12

Formal Christian confessions have ancient roots. The Bible reiterates the importance of confessing the truth about the Trinity and specifically Jesus Christ. Whether formal or informal, confession must state faith in the God accurately described in the Scriptures. Important to note is that knowledge alone will not transform the heart.

As we struggle with sin, we must go to scripture as a means to knowing God and to being known or searched by him and his word (Hebrews 4:12) – The very word of God is transformational. Bible study coupled with the theology we know to be true must shape the way that we live; pleading before God to be changed by what we read, else we will remain in our sin.

The only way we can know Jesus Christ is through the Scriptures, by the illumination of the Spirit. For one who is born again, the way we approach our failures, guilt, and addictions is radically different from one who is not. We stop trying to solely change ourselves and instead turn to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:12

The gift of faith entails the capacity to grasp truth about hope in the work and person of Jesus Christ. And our perseverance is not based on our own strength or determined by us, but on the promise of God himself (carried out by all three persons of the Trinity). What is our confession of hope? Confession is the profession of what we believe connected to our perseverance in the Christian life. Holding fast to our confession of hope requires we know why we believe, what we believe and Who we believe. The anchor of the Christian’s conviction is the absolute trustworthiness of God’s word. God pursues his people and sustains us “by the word of his power.”

Hebrews 10:22-25; Hebrews 1:1-3

Thankfully, Christian perseverance isn’t a battle we fight alone. Our ability to hold fast is grounded in the Father’s great love. Jesus Christ, the perfecter of our faith, intercedes for us at the very right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). Because Jesus is Lord in his person and his work, we can have full assurance of our hope until the end. May we hold fast to the hope set before us while living out our confession.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” – Hebrews 6:17-18 

 

Discernment, Theology, Uncategorized

The Means by Which God Speaks to His Church

The canon of Scripture was not an after the fact development, but something woven deep into the fabric of God’s redemptive plan. Since the close of the canon in the first century, the Word of God alone is the means by which God speaks to his church.

Previously, He spoke to His people in various ways – In Old Testament times, He spoke to people directly on occasion, revealed Himself through dreams or particular signs (as with Gideon), revealed Himself through the casting of lots and through theophanies. The primary way God communicated with the people of Israel was through the prophets, beginning with, “Thus says the Lord.” The words of the prophets were set down in writing and became the Word of God. Thus the Old Testament was produced.

“Whatever Scripture says God says.” – B.B. Warfield

In the New Testament, the counterpart to the prophet was the Apostle. Having received a direct call by Christ, the term “apostle” refers to one who is sent or commissioned with authority of the One doing the sending.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” – Matthew 10:40

The prophets and the apostles together form the very foundation of the church. Through both the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament, we were given a written record of special revelation. It has come to us by Christ’s authorized agents of revelation, His emissaries.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” – Ephesians 2:19 – 21

Christianity is based ultimately on knowledge that comes to us from God himself. Holding to that conviction is vitally important for our determination of truth. When we open the pages of Scripture, may we humbly bow before the Lord. God has spoken. As His church, may we learn the Bible, live the Bible, and love the Bible.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

Praise God who humbled himself by using mere mortals to communicate his infallible word. We have the written Word, but we also have the Word incarnate, the One about whom the written Word speaks. The One who embodies the very word of God.

Uncategorized

Is God Doing Nothing in Our Waiting?

All of us face troubles at some time that are out of our control. It’s what you do while you wait on God that shows where you stand in your faith. How many times do we present our requests to God only to take them back and try to work them out ourselves (when it seems like the answer is taking too long)? Is God doing nothing in our waiting? The truth is that the timing of God is always perfect even when it appears that it may be too late. Just because you can’t see what God is doing in your struggle does not mean he is doing nothing. It means his plan is higher than yours and it has a greater outcome. 

The suffering in the life of a believer has a deliberate, divine purpose in bringing you to a greater knowledge of the God you serve. When you suffer through a painful trial, keep in mind that God knows it. He saw your situation long before you were born and He is with you to the end. Abraham’s troubled world presented stark similarities to ours today: death, doubt, and desire. 

God granted Isaac as a miracle child to Abraham and Sarah, keeping His promise to them. Esau and Jacob were an answer to prayer. A miraculous birth, Samuel was given to Hannah. Samson was given and God used him to judge Israel. Then ultimately, the virgin Mary gave birth to our Savior of this world. The culmination of God’s promises were evidenced in birth.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:15

God revealed and kept his promises to Abraham and yet, the behavior of his descendants are baffling. Although redeemed for the divine agenda of the world, Isaac mirrored his father’s wrongful actions by taking matters into his own hands. By God’s graciousness, in the end Isaac was transformed. Having become rich in a foreign land, he eventually made it back to the land of promise. In Jacob’s dream, God would confirm his identity as the God of Abraham and Isaac. Having sought betrayal, Jacob would receive the blessing. God’s mercy was revealed in the covenant that was restated again and again. Blessings became connected to God’s redemptive presence. 

“Many reasons for God’s designs are beyond our understanding…Hence in every case we should marvel at his wisdom and praise his ineffable love.” – Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople

An omniscient God is never taken by surprise; God knows his people (both then and now) fail. Although we cannot fathom the depths of God’s love, we see in the generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob an unworthy people reaffirmed as Israel. God continues to rescue his people and ultimately, rescue is displayed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Yahweh is simultaneously the covenant maker and our covenant keeper, as he continues the rescue today. 

As the God-man, Jesus shed his own blood for us and was raised from the dead to free us from the curse of sin. He will live with His people forever. The promise of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the promise God has fulfilled for us in Jesus. Christ is our Emmanuel, God with us.

“…love which stoops and sacrifices and services, love which is kind to the unkind and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.” – John Stott

God reminds us of his missional promises as He continues to rescue unlikely and unworthy people. He supremely displays grace, coming to meet us as we are, though God be complete and perfect within himself. It’s vital we remember what’s most important about the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection: It’s not the benefits it gets us but rather the gospel giving us God himself. He will be our God and yes, we will be His people, and we will be together enjoying Him forever. You are never without hope if you believe. That is a promise Jesus Christ died to give you. 

Topical Study, Uncategorized

Lament or Complaint? Consider the Difference.

Although “lament” and “complaint” have some things in common, biblically they cannot be mistaken for each other. Time after time, we see God’s dissatisfaction with complaining and grumbling; most evident are the grumbling Israelites in Exodus. Lamenting, however, seems common and acceptable. How can we express ourselves openly and honestly to God without being offensive? Lament or Complaint? Consider the difference.

Complaint reveals belief in a God who is unreliable. His Word clearly distinguishes complaint as a sin and stumbling block (Philippians 2:14). The grumbling Israelites did not have faith that God was good (Exodus 15:22-24; 16:1-3), and their grumbling led them into wandering 40 years in the wilderness. Complaint does not please God, it offends Him.

Far different from faithless grumble, words of lament are the words of one trusting in the God to whom he cries out. An example would be Psalm 22, which begins with cries of anguish but moves on to praises for a God who has worked in the past. The lament shows reliance on the Lord for his provision and protection. Psalm 22 is directed to the God who answers prayers. Lament does not offend God.

Psalm 22:1-21

Psalm 22-31

Psalm 46

Author of Tyndale’s Commentary of the Psalms, Tremper Longman asks the question, “While it’s wonderful that God invites our laments, how often does he answer them?” His answer: “Not all the time—so what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to lament forever? ‘The general teaching of Scripture is that a more mature level of suffering is to move from lament to confidence, just like Psalm 46 does.”

In the words of Michael Card, “It’s easy to praise God when things in your life are going well, but what about the other times? What happens when mountaintop experiences cascade into seasons of struggling in the valley? God expects us to pour out our hearts to Him, whether in joy or pain. But many of us don’t feel right expressing our anger, frustration and sadness in prayer. Our personal worship experience is not complete unless we understand the lost language of lament.”

As Christians, we are a blessed people to have the stories of biblical characters to use as a guide for daily living. From examples of Job to David, we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our Savior has not forsaken us – In the darkest of times, He is often seen the brightest. Yet, we need not pretend all is well when it comes to our personal prayer. Important to note: Complaint talks about God. Lament talks to God.

Have we lost the practice of lamenting in Christian worship? We can praise our God with laughter and tears in all seasons of life! His glory is seen no less.

Biblical Counseling, Reading, Uncategorized

Love and Marriage

The chasm between the biblical vision and society’s view of love and marriage has never been broader. It rings true that previous generations’ view of marriage was never high enough but we have reached a low, casual attitude of both what constitutes marriage and warrants it disposable. What would seem ludicrous in generations past has become the norm. Marriage is fundamentally God’s own design, confirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:8.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Love doesn’t come easily and as a counselor, I see women who’ve become tired and frustrated in marriage. It takes intentional work and time to model God’s good design. Much like other relationships, love is best shared when applying biblical principles. It’s shameful that many couples are no longer willing to exercise patience, preferring to simply throw in the towel. David Powlison said it best, “It’s no accident “Love is patient” comes first in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience isn’t very dramatic, but it counts.” 

If we are to be biblical Christians, God will be honored in our relationships. The book titles I refer to time and again are: God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, Preparing for Marriage by by Boehi, Nelson, and Shadrach (edited by Dennis Rainey), What did you Expect? by Paul Tripp, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Below are words penned by Timothy Keller in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. Whether you are long-time married or merely contemplating marriage, I suggest you read Keller’s book.

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” 

“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.” 

“Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” 

“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.” 

Goal Setting & Decision Making, Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

And so it is that the current decade is coming to a close. For many of us, 2019 leaves with a mix of joys and sorrows, goals achieved and opportunities missed, friendships gained and relationships lost. Though not a Christian holiday, New Year’s Eve is an opportune time to pause for reflection, repentance, and renewal.

The Bible reminds us of reflection’s importance: So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, from Psalm 90:12. Before posing new ideas and resolutions, we would do well to consider how we use our days. Reflecting past and present realities gives clarity and wisdom for the future.

Beyond reflection, may we evaluate our shortcomings as we bring them to the foot of the cross. By confession and repentance we gain strength from the Giver’s fresh grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us, But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. We can begin anew with confidence that in our weakness we rely continuously on the strength of our Lord.

Godly living focuses on Christ. In doing so, we become evidence of the one who made us. The blood sacrifice of Jesus was not that we might be a people serving ourselves but to become His people, saved out of this world. As followers of Jesus, we are to make distinctions between ourselves and those of this world. C.S. Lewis penned, “Glory is an all pervasive reality that surrounds us every day and beckons us to belief and delight.”

Renewing commitments, love, friendships, and faith creates new possibilities. Our God himself provides new experiences and opportunities in his steadfast love. Isaiah 43:19 reads, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. But are you sincerely setting God highest in your thoughts? Do you hold him in the highest possible position? And asking, Do my resolutions match my priorities? is a tool in determining sincerity in your new year’s commitments. Keep in mind, if we desire to know God more, to experience an intimate relationship with him in 2020, we must learn from him and about Him.

As Christians, it is appropriate for us to establish and keep certain priorities and principles as we strive to love and follow Christ. Jonathan Edwards remarked, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.” When our resolutions align with scripture our efforts glorify God and that time will be redeemed.

Each year’s passing serves as a reminder of the frailty of life with the breath of a new year – a miracle, a gift given to us. Closing 2019 with reflection, repentance, and renewal offers promise and potential for 2020. May we approach the Lord in humble reliance on His grace as we seek not merely the blessings but the One who blesses.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Note: If you are unsure in making God-honoring decisions, you will find this previous post helpful. https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/24/seeking-gods-will-in-decision-making-a-topical-study/

Bible Study, Discernment, Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible Series, Theological Study, Theology, Topical Study, Uncategorized

Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, Part Nine

Handle With Care

In Parts 7-8 of Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, our focus was the disciplines of reading and studying the Scriptures. In Parts 2-5, we explored the Doctrine of the Word of God. We have now established a shallow foundation for Bible reading and study. Continuing along this route, we must look practically into furthering the disciplines, and furthering them in a God-honoring way. And while not all believers have the gift of teaching, we will address such: All are responsible to pass on the truths they have learned in God’s Word. Thus, this part of the study focuses on “rightly handling the Word of truth.”

Once salvation occurs, growth and maturity comes before correctly handling the Scriptures. The Scriptures can be complicated: It is not simple to understand them. With right understanding, they must also be applied rightly. It is the woman who lives in the Word and whose life is shaped and governed by the Word of Truth who is the kind of “worker” God approves, as described in 2 Timothy 2:15. Also: As with all things done in the name of Christ, prayer is a vital element. 

  • Deuteronomy 17:18-19
  • Psalm 119:18
  • John 5:39; 14:6, 9
  • 1 Corinthians 12:29
  • 1 Timothy 4:14
  • 2 Timothy 1:6; 2:15
  • Hebrews 1:3
  • 2 Peter 1:3

How does prayer before study and a determination to handle the Bible carefully reflect your theology? Support your answer.

Keep in mind that we will handle the word of truth better if we know the word of truth. Like Israel’s kings, we should develop a habit of reading God’s word daily (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). “I’m afraid that’s the condition of many people today. They assume that our faith means taking a deep breath, shutting our eyes, and believing what we know deep down inside is absolutely incredible. In fact, Christianity has often been caricatured as the nonthinking man’s religion. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. When you become a Christian, you don’t throw your brain into neutral…You don’t commit intellectual suicide.” states Howard Hendrix, author and seminary professor. The Christian is often known by how she handles the Word of God, and mishandling the truth leads to misconceptions by the world.

Have you developed an intentional pattern in your Bible reading and study? What efforts do you make to know and retain what you study?

Read John 5:39, then Hebrews 1:3. God wants us to know Him. The way to know Him is through the Son. Do you look for the revelation of Jesus Christ when reading the Scriptures?

Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind. Why might it be important that we anchor our lives in God’s character?

Joel Beeke, professor of systematic theology, writes, “Spiritual growth begins with knowledge. We must be increasingly filled with the knowledge of Christ as the Agent of the Father’s will. If our spiritual life is a fire burning in our hearts, then doctrinal truth received by grace is the well-seasoned wood that fuels the fire, so that it burns hotter and higher.” A slow, steady fire gives light, but if the fire roars, it also provides warmth. Likewise, Bible reading and study is the means to develop spiritual maturity and godly wisdom. Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind.

  • Romans 10:2
  • Hebrews 5:11-14
  • Philippians 2:5

Referencing Hebrews 5:11-14, have you become “dull of hearing?” Would you say your diet consists of spiritual milk, or solid food? Are you mature enough to discern truth?

We do not grow as Christians merely by using a spiritual barometer. We grow from the life-transforming renewal of our minds. Matthew Henry said, “Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. The more we depend upon Christ and draw sap and virtue from him…the more we cast forth our roots.” This spiritual maturity, in turn, comes from actually understanding and learning to apply God’s word to our lives. In doing so, we walk in Him. 

Read Ezra 7:6-10. Having been a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses, Ezra is presented as the ideal priest in Israel. His mission was to lead God’s people in worship and holiness. This stemmed from a life of faithfulness. In the living of Ezra’s daily life, what specific words or phrases do you find in verse 10 revealing to us that he earnestly learned and applied what he knew to be true?

Why was Ezra’s expert knowledge of the law badly needed to those who had been exiled for 70 years? 

  • Romans 8:28-30
  • 1 Corinthians 8:3
  • Galatians 4:9
  • Colossians 2:3-10
  • 1 Peter 2:2
  • 2 Peter 3:18

How do we benefit today from teachers who have studied the Word vs. those attempts without proper study? Would you consider study of the Bible vital to handling the Word rightly in the teaching or counsel of scriptures? Explain.

What benefits might we find in reading, studying, and teaching the Bible within the community of God’s people, His church?

When Romans 8:28-30 is read alongside 1 Corinthians 8:3 and Galatians 4:9, the people of God clearly responded to his call in faith, and the faith required for justification is illustrated. In the fulfillment of God’s purposes, the redemptive work of Christ (by way of the Spirit) enables the believer. Do you see how fitting it was that Paul wrote these words, himself being a great example of someone who endured a great deal of suffering, yet continued to grow in his faith and love for Christ? 

In Colossians 2:3-10, we read a portion of Paul’s appeal for Christian maturity.  Where does it indicate the treasures of wisdom and knowledge to be found? In verses 6-7, which phrases describe believers who are alive in Christ?

In verses 4 and 5 of Colossians 2, Paul does not say that the church at Colossae has already been deceived, but from long experience he is familiar with times of attack from the enemy following a work of grace. Can you see where and why such an act could have a devastating  effect on both individuals and the church?

Peter and Paul both understood the significance in the fact that Scripture confirms Scripture. In their writings, they make several points about holiness. Peter even quoted God’s holiness commands from several places in Leviticus. As we noted in previous posts, Jesus himself quoted Scripture in support and confirmation. Exhibiting the same humility and integrity, we can confidently build all of our beliefs upon the sufficient Word of God, which proves itself true.

  • Matthew 11:10, 16-17; 13:14-15; 15:4-9 
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:4
  • Titus 2:7-8
  • 1 Peter 1:15-16; 5:5

Although Christians are commanded to share God’s words with others, can you clearly see the importance of doing so graciously,with dignity, honor, and respectfor the God whose holy Word you are sharing? Support your answer.

With interpretation, 2 Timothy 2:15 lays out the need to rightly handle the scriptures. The Greek verb orthotomeo means “to cut straight,” which is used here to refer to the accurate handling of Scripture. The reference here is to plowing, cutting leather, or cutting bricks or stones. Since the word “workman” most often refers to an agricultural worker in the New Testament, the word likely refers to “plowing a straight furrow.” This word serves as a metaphor for doing something carefully, accurately, and precisely. When interpretation is done carefully in Bible reading, study, or teaching, we are rightly handling the Scriptures.

  • Ezra 1:1-11; 6:8-12; 7:1-28
  • Isaiah 60:5-7
  • 2 Timothy 2:12-15
  • Titus 2:1

Refer back to Ezra 7. Note some important details mentioned in Ezra 7:1-11 regarding Ezra’s study, what he learned, and what he taught. It’s possible that the king, in making the provisions mentioned in Ezra 6:8-12 and 7:22, actually intended to ward off the wrath of God against His kingdom. Nonetheless, we can note some of the benefits from Ezra’s dedication to God and His Law seen in 7:11-25. Identify them.

Did God’s people ultimately gain from Ezra’s study, dedication, and faithful leadership, as “the Lord, the God of our fathers” extended his steadfast love? Support your answer.

In light of Isaiah 60:5-7 and Ezra 1:1, whose hand controlled the blessing of provisions  mentioned in Ezra 7:27-28? List these blessings. 

In Titus 2:1, we see Paul’s charge to Timothy. When coupled with 2 Timothy 2:12-15, how might this apply to all God’s children?  How would you present yourself to God?

Hendrix writes, “You see, it’s one thing to struggle with difficulties in interpretation; it’s another thing to distort the meaning of God’s Word. That’s serious. That’s something He will bring to judgment. So we need to be careful to learn how to interpret Scripture accurately, practically, and profitably.” Hendrix then mentions six pitfalls of interpretation to watch out for:

  • Misreading the text
  • Distorting the text
  • Contradicting the text
  • Subjectivism
  • Relativism
  • Overconfidence

It is significant that Paul proclaimed the whole counsel of God, recognizing that everything written in the past was written to still teach us today. This was so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. He also noted that Israel’s history contains examples that were written as warnings to us. The entirety of the Bible has value for all of us. With careful attention, we can glean important truths from every word it contains.

  • Acts 20:27
  • Romans 15:4
  • 1 Corinthians 10:1-11

In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul sums up his teaching by saying that these things are examples and have been recorded as warnings. It is significant that in the same verse he refers to “the end” as the fulfilment of the ages. The culmination of all past ages having arrived in the coming of Christ has the implication that all previous ages come to their appointed end in him. 

Past ages having been completed, their lessons are now teaching us. From this, we might reap the fruits of learning from those events. In verses 1-10, which experiences can you discern as being sins? List them. What lessons can be learned regarding these sins?

Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, the “word of truth” refers to the gospel message. On this basis, some infer that the Word refers specifically to the gospel, not the Scriptures as a whole. However, the connection between 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 4:2 suggests otherwise.

  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Colossians 1:5
  • 2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2
  • Titus 1:14

Reading 2 Timothy 3:16 and 4:2, are you able to identify the proper context of “word of truth” in this passage? Why might the context matter?

Whether reading, studying, or preparing to teach the Bible, the key is the context. 

  • What was the context then
  • What is the context now
  • What is the truth that remains true, regardless of the cultural context? 

Studying culture includes the areas of power, communication, money and economics, ethnicity, gender, generations, religion and worldview, the arts, history and time, place, and resources. If you can discern the accurate, author-intended principles from your reading and study of Scripture, you’ll have some powerful tools to help you apply this biblical truth. You’ll bridge the gap between the ancient world and your own situation with the timeless truth of God’s Word. 

The principles of Scripture are universally relevant.

In the work of interpretation and application, we must be cautious of extrabiblical statements that might seem to reflect biblical truth. Persons may be using the same words, or presenting the same concepts that God mentions in His Word, but they may also be filling those words and concepts with completely different meanings. With the reader’s or teacher’s private interpretation comes the obligation to interpret Scripture correctly. 

R.C. Sproul penned, “The doctrine of the sola Scriptura does not mean that the Christians are to pay attention only to their personal understanding of the Bible or that we can make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean. After all, Martin Luther is often quoted as saying, ‘The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.’ The meaning of Scripture is not so uncertain that we can all come up with our own views and never know the truth. That would be a skeptical view of divine truth that says it is wholly subjective and objectively unknowable.”

Can you describe God-honoring interpretation and application, as contrasted to poor interpretation and application? Make a chart if needed.

Many times, scriptural teaching can even become distorted when a teacher or writer puts her own spin on it. It’s true that well-intentioned people may have been influenced by unbiblical teaching through various means, and not even be aware of it. But in reality, the Bible tells us that oftentimes men will suppress, deny, and distort the truth even if it is staring them in the face. If we are not rooted in the basics of the Bible, we are more likely to be swept away by half-truths and false doctrine. As a warning, God also tells us through His Word that Satan has been given limited power until Christ’s return. We should not be surprised by His attempt at sabotage.

  • Isaiah 5:20-21, 24
  • Acts 20:29-30
  • Romans 16:17-18
  • 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
  • Ephesians 4:11-16
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
  • Hebrews 2:7-8; 5:14
  • 2 Peter 2:1-3
  • 1 John 4:1-6

Along with outsiders, the apostle Paul mentions the possibility of people from within the church adopting false teachings and seducing the congregation (Acts 20:30, Romans 16:17, Colossians 2:8). How could this be applied to the church today?

Read Ephesians 4:11-16. How might the Christian woman avoid being “tossed to and fro” by crafty schemes and foolish teachings?

The Bible, being God’s own voice, means that when we dishonor doctrinal truth, we also dishonor God himself. Where in your life is there evidence of being “tossed to and fro” that has weakened your resolve to do what God says in his Word? 

Evil often disguises itself as truth. How can we most quickly recognize error?

God does not want us to be spiritual babies: It is important to sit under solid, biblical teaching, and to fellowship with mature Christian women. In reading Hebrews 5:12-14, how might this make us able to discern what is best?

Stop. Pray that the Lord would expose your weakness and dependency on “popular” teaching, catchy phrases, and simple (sometimes comical) illustrations, rather than taking time and effort to seek doctrinal truth. Pray that He might show you where you are lacking discernment, in order to enable correct theological adjustment.

When Paul was meeting with the Ephesian elders, he said, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.” He gave them everything profitable. Remember, they all had the life struggles we have. They had all the spiritual needs we have. Hence, be careful of what you accept as truth, influencing your own personal interpretation and application of a passage. If not, you risk passing on error. The Word, in and of itself, is the ultimate profitable source. The Word will strengthen the believer.

  • Acts 20:27-32

Identify warnings in the Acts passage. List them.

Sound application must begin with sound interpretation; it begins as soon as we sit down to read the biblical text; it includes our attitudes and our posture toward the Word.

As we reflect on a passage, we need to think about a specific application of the biblical truth to life and ask: 

  • Am I open to hearing what the Spirit is saying to me through the Word about ways I need to adjust my life? 
  • Am I characterized by making adjustments to my life based on God’s Word?

We need to be constantly aware that Scripture may have multiple applications, but we recognize only one best meaning and strict interpretation of Holy Scripture. Essentials for application would be:

  • a commitment to a high view of Scripture.
  • recognizing the Bible as our authority for daily living. 
  • a conviction of the profitability of all of Scripture.
  • an understanding that only what the Bible says is truly important, as we accurately divide and plow into the Word of Truth.
  • a commitment to correct application of the instruction of the Scripture. This includes going beyond reading the Bible, and actually doing what it says. 

In the “actually doing” what the Scriptures teach, how can our awareness of truth become a workroom for the Holy Spirit? Why is this encouraging?

In addition, we must have a willingness to be confined to the author’s intent. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul charges Timothy to be a diligent student of the scriptures, honoring the text in his teaching as he preaches the Word. All teachers of God’s Word automatically assume that same responsibility today.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
  • Galatians 1:4-10
  • 1 Timothy 1:3-20; 6:12; 6:17-21
  • 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:18; 4:1-22
  • Titus 1:1; 1:9-11; 2:1

Do you deny your difficulties with Bible interpretation and application? Do you allow pride to get in the way of consulting credible resources (print or persons)?

Read 2 Timothy Chapter 4. Paraphrase the sections indicated below. Make certain to note Paul’s words of encouragement, exhortation, and warning, and include these words in your paraphrase.

  1. Vs. 1-8
  2. Vs. 9-18
  3. Vs. 19-22

In verses 4:1-8, why was it important for Paul to urge Timothy to preach sound doctrine? What was happening at Ephesus? What event is mentioned in 4:1 to motivate Timothy? How might this motivate us today to handle the Word rightly?

What is the connection in correct interpretation and right application? How does slowly progressing, unchecked poor application take control of your Bible study? 

In application of the Scriptures, it is important that we strive to know what is true. We must not contradict the Bible in any form or fashion, understanding that in most cases, the application can be easily seen from the text. 

Application is the thoughtful appropriation of biblical truth to our lives – how we take it in, embrace it, and adjust our lives to bring them in line with the truth of God’s Word. 

This application can be difficult to do consistently: our sinfulness tries to distort the text, and many of us have also been indirectly trained to think in vague terms rather than specific action. Application will likely take the form of a tangible action, worship, meditation, or adjusting our theology.

How does having an overall understanding of a passage and belief in God help you to think through the appropriation of biblical truth to your life? 

In light of this study, identify some passages or biblical stories you now believe you have possibly misinterpreted or misapplied. 

While determining your application of the Scriptures, discern what might be controlling your methods of meditation on them. Where is this happening in your life? Would you say your focus is more horizontal or vertical?

The Bible’s grand and glorious narrative helps frame our interpretation. It leads us to a balanced theology. The “big story” helps us to better understand the Bible’s “little stories”: In this sense, we can view the “big story” from above, before viewing the “little stories” from below. Even in our application, we should recognize that the Bible is one overarching saga.

  • Matthew 5:17-18
  • 1 Timothy 4:1-8
  • 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17
  • James 1:22-25 
  • 2 Peter 1:19-2:3

Which overarching theme of the Bible is seen in Matthew 5:17-18? Why would this be an important passage in interpretation and application?

List specific instructions in Paul’s charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-8. What is the warning found here, which applies to Bible teachers today?

Can you see the scope of application in 2 Timothy 3:16-17? Paraphrase this passage.

In James 1:22-25, do we learn that application should be taken from our hearing, reading, and study of the Bible? Do you find a warning in this passage? Explain.

Which warnings do you find in 2 Peter 1:19 – 2 Peter 2:3?

What might be the implications of the warnings found throughout this study? How does this encourage you to be diligent in proper technique of your personal Bible reading and study? 

The Word of God is eternal and unchanging, but our world is not. Therefore, living out God’s truth demands that we plug it into our particular set of modern circumstances. However, we do not change the truth to fit our cultural agenda. We change our application of the truth in light of our needs, while remaining thoughtful and diligent about which aspects of a biblical passage are meant to be transferable to us. 

Teachers of the Bible must handle God’s Word accurately as the “workmen.” We must emphasize what Scripture itself emphasizes, and focus on what Scripture itself focuses on. Although it is true that mishandling Scripture has eternal consequences, it is also true that handling the Scriptures rightly comes with reward.

  • Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
  • Romans 12:1-2
  • 2 Timothy 2:15

“Pooling of knowledge is edifying to the church; pooling of ignorance is destructive,” R.C. Sproul wisely penned.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank your Bible literacy? Do you believe it has improved since you first began this study? What difference might that make to both yourself and others? Pray for the Lord’s conviction of where and how you need to fight biblical illiteracy.

In this study, we have established that God expects the believer to seek and obtain biblical knowledge. Why would only seeking horizontal, worldly knowledge be insufficient? 

What areas of your life show (or lack) evidence of biblical awareness? Where are you knowledgeable and biblically aware, but your heart isn’t fully engaged? How might you be encouraged by God’s intervening grace?

In this series, we’ve established our goal: in applying sound doctrine and using proper technique, in reading and studying the Bible, we must have an intimate acquaintance with the mind of God.  He has revealed all we need to live a life of godliness in commands and promises (illustrated in and through the lives of biblical saints and in Jesus supremely). Together, let’s continually feast on His words! As we do so, we will begin to slowly discover the rich treasure of God’s will in every situation and every circumstance of life. 

Is it possible that past or present biblical illiteracy has caused you to begin to believe things that are not true, and in turn say things that are not true? Are there lies that might have been rooted in your past theology that have affected your actions? What lies could you be currently repeating? Be specific.

How is your view of Scripture, and God’s involvement in your study, connected to your daily life? How is your view of Scripture connected to your obedience to the great commission?

Our lifelong journey into knowing and loving God fuels growth, as we allow ourselves to be conformed to the knowledge and love of the Scriptures. The earthly reward of handling the Bible carefully (that which is God’s voice) is to enjoy the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: And the heavenly reward will be so much more! 

An inability to understand the Bible obviously hurts the church, but it also hinders our efforts in furthering the gospel. Our purpose in these disciplines is not justreading for the sake of enjoyment or to havea Bible study, but it is so that we might know God more deeply, and ultimately, that we might walk away better equipped to join Him in His work, telling the nations how great our God is. Therefore, the goal of Bible literacy, in both reading and study, is to give God glory in making Jesus Christ known in a greater way. 

Reflect on what you’ve gained in this study.

  • My goals after completing this study are…
  • As a result of my studies, I hope…
  • My prayer following the completion of this study is…

All sources for this series are listed here:https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/